Ignored wishes: Organ


SALEM, Ohio – Approximately 2,500 people are waiting for an organ transplant today in Ohio.

Some are only here because of technological advances keeping them alive, in hopes of getting an organ donation before it’s too late.

Bill and Pauline McKarns of Columbiana County, Ohio, wish their son could have helped some of these people. Instead, when the 25-year-old was killed in an industrial accident while working outside Ohio, his wishes to be an organ donor were ignored.

Family approval. Many states at that time, including Ohio, would not remove organs of someone who died unless they got an OK from the family, regardless of the sticker on the victim’s license.

This is what happened in the case of Mark McKarns in 1995. His license clearly indicated that he wanted to be an organ donor if he died. Because his parents could not be reached in that small window of time when organ removal is an option, Mark’s chance to give life – in his death – was lost.

His parents were upset. They had assumed, like most people, that if there was an organ donor sticker on their son’s license, his wishes would be followed.

Adult decisions. Bill thought, and still thinks, people of legal age should have the final say on whether they want their organs saved; it isn’t the family’s decision. Another problem was that sometimes the families couldn’t be contacted soon enough.

Others agreed with Bill McKarns and last July a bill was signed in Ohio that gave full control to the individual, not the family.

It established the Ohio Donor Registry Database that keeps track of everyone who is registered for organ donation.

Still important. Even though there is now the database, McKarns and Marilyn Pongonis, spokesperson for Lifeline of Ohio, both emphasize that it is still important for people to make their wishes known. People need to tell their families they are registered for organ donation so it isn’t a surprise when they die.

Lifeline of Ohio is a nonprofit organization that works as a go-between for the donor and recipient.

“It’s amazing that an organ can be put in a cooler, hand carried, flown or driven [to the recipient], sewn into someone else and they walk out two weeks later,” she said.

“It’s the amazing power to touch a lot of people even after death.”

(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at khebert@farmanddairy.com.)

Get the details

Lifeline of Ohio

770 Kinnear Road, Ste. 200

Columbus OH 43212




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